US POLICY BARRING THE sale of combat aircraft to Latin America is "under review" by the Departments of Defense and State. That is all the US Government would say at the show, despite fielding a major military presence led by defence secretary William Perry, after boycotting the show in 1994.

Two Lockheed Martin F-16Cs, two McDonnell Douglas (MDC) F-18Cs and a Bell AH-1W helicopter were displayed, supported by a MDC C-17 and a KC-10, a Lockheed Martin C-130 and a Boeing KC-135. In contrast, the Russian presence was scaled back substantially from 1994, with no combat aircraft present and only a relatively small exhibit lead by arms-export agency Rosvoorouzhenie.

Headlining the US presence was the Northrop Grumman B-2, which was flown from Whiteman AFB in the USA to Santiago for a brief flypast before returning without landing. The 17,950km (9,700nm) round trip took just under 24h and required two KC-10 aerial refuellings on the southbound leg and a KC-135 aerial refuelling before the return leg - 106,700kg of fuel was used, the US Air Force says.

Visiting the show, Perry confirmed that the ban on US fighter sales, imposed on the region in 1979, is under review. He is lobbying for the present blanket ban to be replaced with a case-by-case approval process. Observers believe that this could come as early as this year, with Argentina, Brazil and Chile likely to benefit first.

Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems president Dain Hancock is "very encouraged" by the direction and rate of change of the US Government's stance on combat-aircraft sales in Latin America, "...although the full restrictions are not removed today". He foresees a significant market for F-16s in the region.o

US military-aircraft manufacturers geared up for lifting of sales ban

Source: Flight International